“How can I tell if I am addicted?” Help for Me (2019)
“How can I tell if I am addicted?” Help for Me
It can be overwhelming and frightening to be involved with pornography. Any amount of pornography use is harmful to ourselves and others and is inappropriate. But understanding the extent of our use and how it affects us is important.
Many people who struggle with pornography may label themselves as addicted. This label can be harmful if it is not true. The words addiction and addicted are used freely and often inaccurately. Understanding where we are in the spectrum of pornography use can help us to overcome it.
What does it really mean to be addicted to something? Typically, addiction refers to behaviors that are done in an uncontrolled way that undermine personal happiness. Addiction causes us to repeat the behaviors even when the consequences are negative. (See “Addiction,” Gospel Topics, topics.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.) Such behaviors often lead to other problems in our lives such as:
Feelings of guilt and shame
Difficulty going about daily tasks
Problems in relationships
Employment, academic, or other related problems
Additional inappropriate sexual behaviors
A desire to isolate or hide
Lack of interest in spiritual development
Before we label ourselves as addicted, there are some questions we might ask ourselves:
Pornography use can range from inadvertent exposure to occasional use to intensive use to compulsive use. Part of assessing where we are on this spectrum includes evaluating our frequency of use, or how often we engage in viewing pornography. The More frequently an individual views pornography, the more serious the problem. Occasional viewing of pornography usually indicates a milder problem and is less likely to be an addiction, although the conduct is still inappropriate and harmful. For more information, see President Dallin H. Oaks, “Recovering from the Trap of Pornography,” Ensign, Oct. 2015, 32–38; Liahona, Oct. 2015, 50–55.
If we have been unable to stop viewing pornography for a long period of time—such as several years—we may have more difficulty overcoming this than if we have been involved with pornography for a shorter period. If we’ve been viewing pornography since we were young, we may be more likely to develop an addiction over time.
If we are willing to take risks to view pornography, then our behavior may be more difficult to change. For children, these risks may include neglecting schoolwork, lying, or withdrawing from social situations. As an adult, risk-taking might include attempting to hide pornography use, lying to a spouse, or viewing pornography at work. This behavior could lead to divorce, family problems, loss of employment, or criminal activity.
If we are addicted to pornography, we may struggle to perform routine daily tasks in our lives. Thoughts of pornography can consume us to the point where sleeping, working, or other chores become difficult. Even family conversations or activities may seem challenging. This obsessive thinking may have an unhealthy influence on friendships, family relationships, responsibilities, and activities that we previously enjoyed.
Even after we consider these questions, we still may not have a clear understanding of whether we are addicted. However, when we evaluate our behavior, we may begin to come to a better understanding of our pornography use. This may help us begin to make a plan for change. We have the power to change, and it is our responsibility to do so.
If we find that our problem is more serious or if we are struggling to make progress, we may need professional help. Learn more about finding a professional by reading “How do I find a mental health professional who is right for me?”
When we take the time and effort to understand our pornography use, we are taking the first step toward changing our behavior. No matter how severe our pornography problem is, change is possible.
Consider writing your responses to the questions in this article. Describe the extent of your pornography problem.
Make a plan to stop viewing pornography. To learn more about making a plan, see “What do I need to focus on to overcome my pornography habit?”
Find support. Identify individuals or a group that you can turn to for support. Read “How can I find the support I need?”